RRS Discovery

Restoring the RRS Discovery 

In November the Dundee Heritage Trust, a small independent charity, successfully raised £41,795 for the restoration of the The Royal Research Ship (RRS) Discovery, one of Britain's most important historic ships through crowdfunding. The funds were raised through a mix of a £31,795 from the crowd and £10,000 match from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

We asked Paul Jennings, CEO of Dundee Heritage Trust, about their campaign.

Why did you decide to try crowdfunding?

A survey of the ship that took place a couple of years ago identified that there was a need to do some work on the masts and rigging. It was getting to a stage where it was potentially becoming a health and safety issue, which left us in a situation where we had to get the repairs commissioned and underway as soon as possible but without having any of the necessary funds in place.

As a trust we are fairly accomplished at raising funds at the £5-10,000 level, but to raise the £345,000 needed for the wider project, we had to seek out larger pieces of funding, ideally at £40-50,000 a time. The crowdfunding represented one £40,000 slice of the money we need to raise.

How is crowdfunding different from how you normally finance or fundraise for projects?

With crowdfunding, as you raise money you get to tell the public the story of your project, who otherwise would only probably hear about it once you had been successful. You can write a grant application and once it's sent, it’s out of your hands. But with crowdfunding you are driving it and managing it. You’ve got to be determined to make it work.

What will you use the money for and what has happened since you hit your crowdfunding target?

We wanted to tell a positive story when we were crowdfunding. Rather than using this money to take the old masts and rigging down, we will use the money we raised to put up the new ones.

In addition to the just over 40k raised through the crowdfunding, we have since raised £40k from the local council's Common Good Fund and have persuaded a local charitable trust, that has given to us annually at the £10,000 level, to increase their giving to £50,000. In addition, we have recently secured £50,000 from the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, who have given us some support in the past. Of our £345,000 target, we are now at £190,000. We are waiting to hear back on a couple of other major bids in the next month which, if we get them, will take us to where we need to be. 

What would be your top tips for others considering crowdfunding for a heritage project?

My main piece of advice would be to try it. But I’d also say you have to go through the thought process in terms of what crowdfunding means for your organisation: do you have the right project? Is it something that the public would get behind? How much do you need to raise to make it happen?